No matter how Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education ends, what we are doing to fight the nomination is working. We just have to keep it up.
As advocates for students, public education and organized labor, we have spent a lot of time in the last several years examining our losses in the electoral and policy making arenas. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As I often tell my students at Oregon High School, we learn and get better by understanding our mistakes and resolving to not repeat them. This focus on failure is a problem, however, if it prevents us from noticing the successes.
Throughout the nation, public education advocates like you and me are jamming senators’ phone lines with calls to reject the DeVos nomination. At last count, there were more than 800,000 emails and 32,000 phone calls urging senators to just say no to the billionaire school voucher activist from Michigan.
Our calls and messages succeeded in pushing back DeVos’s confirmation hearing to January 17. At the hearing, committee chair Lamar Alexander declared that the committee would vote on her confirmation a week later. That vote has now been postponed to January 31 because of our calls, letters, media interviews, blog posts, social media efforts and face-to-face conversations.
There is still time for you to join this effort if you haven’t already. The NEA website has a lot of background information about DeVos and makes it easy for you to email and call your senators. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is also circulating an online petition in opposition to the DeVos nomination. Baldwin is one the senators who questioned DeVos at the January 17 confirmation hearing. Thanks to tough questions from Baldwin and some of the other senators, that hearing “confirmed” much of what we knew about DeVos.
DeVos has never worked in education in any capacity, but she and her family have donated millions of dollars to pro-privatization lobbying groups and political candidates to pull money out of the public schools that 90 percent of our nation’s students attend and redirect it to private and religious schools. In the words of NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, “For the first time ever, our Secretary of Education could be an anti-public education activist whose sole ‘qualification’ for the job is the two decades she has spent attempting to dismantle, destabilize, and defund the American vision of public education.”
We might not succeed in stopping the DeVos nomination, but we have already won. If she is the education secretary her words and decisions will now face much more scrutiny from people who otherwise might not have noticed. And when privatization of public schools is actually put in front of people, it is overwhelmingly rejected.
Let’s keep up the great work. Let’s keep winning.
President of WEAC Region 6